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Is Bulgaria musically dead? I say Almost.


I had an exhausting discussion last night, triggered by a somewhat odd event. The background goes: some 60km away from Russe (a city with possibly the finest architecture in Bulgaria), there\'s this town called Razgrad, where I\'ve spent many summers. Out of nowhere, and after being virtually absent from all cultural life in Bulgaria for, like, ever, Razgrad is hosting a two-day festival, starring none other than Samantha Fox.

You read that right. Sam Fox.
So our discussion goes along the following lines.


  • Me: Razgrad is a dead town, a nowhere, where nothing is ever happening, and someone had the prohibitive idea of stirring things up by inviting a bland 80s star, known for her breasts better than anything else. And the worst thing is, the audience is right on target.
  • Everyone else: You can\'t blame people for who they are and what they choose. People will hate you for being negative.
  • Me: The mass don\'t choose anything. Some half a dozen guys are making all the choices. We\'ve inherited this behaviour from 500 years of slavery and 50 years of communism. People who have even a little taste should express it more openly. The mass should awaken -somehow-. We haven\'t got all the time in the universe to wait for things to undergo natural selection.
  • My friends: You have to show them what\'s good, and quietly pass on everything you don\'t like. Who are you to judge what\'s good and what not? You can\'t be oppressive with your opinion of things.

And so on. A very heated discussion, bordering on full-on argument, during well over an hour. We couldn\'t settle on anything. Samantha Fox was a flop. She didn\'t even stay in town, opting instead for a hotel in Bucurest, Romania. I learned that being too passionate about my view of things oppresses and offends the people around me.

My entire point was that clearly Razgrad\'s municipality sponsored the event, which was, in turn, proposed by someone who\'ve lived under a rock for the past 20 years or so. Razgrad\'s people (and all of us in Bulgaria) should make it clear they won\'t take any of this travesty. I maybe didn\'t have the language to explain it, or went too far down insisting that Bulgaria is breeding a crowd of cultural zombies by spoon-feeding kitsch to the masses.

Let me attempt to clarify all of the above. We\'re having a bit of a cultural identity crisis at the moment. And you\'d have to press us to admit it, but we\'re playing catch-up on culture. Big time. Like, 550+ years big.

This doesn\'t mean that we don\'t get to see important people like Nigel Kennedy or pop stars like Bebel Gilberto. But can you see the divide again? It\'s about the extremes. Front row tickets for Nigel Kennedy go for ?50. ?30 for Bebel Gilberto. Same for you-think-of-a-jazz-electronica-fusion-band-and-name-it act of the moment. This is out of reach for many people (average monthly pay in big cities ?350). And it\'s definitely out of reach for the most important group - young people.

Sadly, ?10 can get you a place at a pop-folk concert (music largely derivative of our neighbouring countries\' scenes), or at a DJ party (i shudder at the fact these are still around). Clubs with live music are a rare occurrence, and they get little (if any) credit.

Nostalgia rocks the Bulgarian scene like never before. Bobby Farrell (Boney M), Robin Gibb (Bee Gees) Eruption, Bonnie Taylor landing in a helicopter right next to the scene. Damn, having George Michael and Depeche Mode here felt fresh! And don\'t get me started on the whole radio thing.

I am all for trying to speed things up and not just pointing to the good, but also for openly expressing what I consider to be a waste of time. We\'re extremely vulnerable to the wrong sort of influences and those should be kept to a minimum.

Instead we\'re stuck in the past. That\'s not a good thing. We have to move on. Sure we could have some more of the music we and our parents listened to when we were kids, but it doesn\'t need to be all that is happening live. For fuck\'s sake, someone invite Jos? Gonz?lez. That would make sense.

As you\'re reading this, Muse are skipping Bulgaria (Oct 4 Greece, Oct 6 Romania, 7 Serbia), and I\'m having to choose between 20 Years Nuclear Blast Fest or another Deep Purple concert. I mean WTF. How do I put up with this?

Hence our heated discussion...

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